Madam Speaker, my friend from and I like to joke with one another from time to time. My background is Irish and that is how the Irish show their fondness for someone. In all sincerity, the prospect of sharing some time with him today in Parliament on this issue, which he has fought for for more than 30 years, fills me with nothing but pride and humility. His expertise on this issue, his personal story, and the stories shared by so many first nations and aboriginal people across Canada makes me feel wholly unqualified to join in such a debate with him, yet here I am. I thank him for this opportunity.
It may seem strange to some Canadians who have been following this issue as to why the New Democrats have chosen one of our few opposition days to bring forward a motion on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples to reaffirm our support of this declaration. Less than a week ago we voted for my friend's bill, declaring that same declaration would become part of Canadian law. As my friend from just pointed out in her questions, even as we are moving legislation through from a Liberal government that has promised to include that declaration in the way it writes legislation, the Liberals are refusing time and again to accept any changes to bills we are dealing with right now.
Therefore, we need to reaffirm our support of this declaration because the Liberal government just a week ago voted for it and the very same Liberal government refuses to include it meaningfully at all in our legislation and to apply it over a very contentious and difficult issue, which has become the Trans Mountain crisis, much of the crisis of the government's own manufacturing, its own making.
From the very outset, when the Liberals were campaigning for office, they promised things for the people of Alberta, that they would bring forward a process that would receive the support of open-minded and progressive Canadians as to how to review pipelines. In fact, they promised to redo the review of this pipeline. The said that the government would redo the process, because the previous process, the one that Stephen Harper designed, was a failure of basic common sense and the understanding for the need of science and proper consultation. We arrive at that word again, “consultation”, meaningful consultation.
The voted for a resolution, my friend's bill, that said, “free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories” of aboriginal people. A pipeline and the associated oil tanker traffic to that pipeline clearly affects the lands and territories of aboriginal people, certainly along the route and certainly on the coast. Did the government achieve that? Did it fulfill its promise, not just to aboriginal Canadians but all Canadians, and avert this crisis we now face, a crisis that has driven the Liberal government to buy the project wholly from a Texas oil company for $4.5 billion?
I would not want the to handle my private affairs. He just bought a 65-year-old pipeline, which had been bought less than a decade ago for a half a billion dollars, for $4.5 billion 10 years later. My goodness, with that kind of investment strategy, I worry for the general finances of the country.
It may seem strange to Canadians as to why we have to reaffirm this just seven days later, but we do. Aboriginal people on the coast are wondering who the actually is. They saw the version of the Prime Minister, who repeated many times that there was no more important relationship to him than that with Canada's aboriginal people. The possessive in that statement has bothered me for some time, “Canada's aboriginal people”, our aboriginal people. It has a certain neo-colonial ring to it, that it is a possession, that it is a people who are ours, that they belong to us somehow. As one aboriginal leader said to me on the coast just this weekend, how colonial could it possibly be that the Government of Canada has now purchased a pipeline and has not waited for the court cases to finish before it says that this pipeline will get built, construction will begin?
Over and over again, the Liberals say that they believe in the rule of law. Do they? No, they do not. There are substantive first nations cases in court right now, from the Tsleil-Waututh, the Sto:lo, the Coldwater, and other groups, which say that the consultation process is a joke and is insufficient. What do they base that on? It is based on the jurisprudence of the northern gateway decision that came down, the Gitga’at decision. They are saying that they are now finding through these leaked documents from federal lawyers that what they need to do is have their legal case ready for approval prior to approving. It also said, “Let 's make this thing Gitga’at proof.” It does not say that their consultations were complete and meet the requirements of the law. They have said that they must do whatever they can so they do not get sued again.
As Ruben George from the Sacred Trust, a Tsleil-Waututh organization, stated, “They haven’t learned...What is crazy about it... is we’ve (won) over and over again in court.“ Who are they? The crown, the government. It seems to need this lesson over and over again. What does it do? It costs a lot of money. It costs a lot of heartache, particularly for aboriginal people who are seeking self-determination. How radical is it in 2018 for a people to seek self-determination from a government that has said the relationship is the most important to it than any other in the country?
It also seems strange to me, as somebody who represents the northwest of British Columbia, that we have seen this movie before. The Harper Conservative government proposed a pipeline, insufficiently consulted with first nations people, and slammed its fist on the same desk as the current is doing, saying that the pipeline would get built. We wonder if the House of Commons our Constitution means anything. It seems not to because the Liberals think that bullying will work.
I do not know if my friends remember, but I remember when the then Harper government said that anyone who opposed that pipeline was an enemy of the state, was a foreign-funded radical for raising radical questions, like what happened to diluted bitumen when it went into water, and how would we clean it up, a question that still has not been answered. We think that would matter to a government that states it cares about the environment, not to worry, that there will be more tugs. What will it do when it hits the water?
We just had the report on the Nathan E. Stewart, a relatively small vessel that sunk of off B.C.'s coast three years ago. What happened? The second mate fell asleep, that this happens. The alarm was turned off, that this happens. The response was inadequate and insufficient over a small incident that did not contain diluted bitumen, which is much harder to clean up.
What is frustrating for a lot of Canadians on both sides of this issue, those who want to see the pipeline built and those who oppose its construction, both for valid, decent, sound reasons, is that they look to a government that promises everything and does nothing.
This is a very dangerous thing for the Liberal government to do because it repeats the mistakes of the past. First nations are engaged by companies and government. I have been at these meetings, so I have seen the conversation actually take place. The company and the government comes in and says, “Here is a memorandum of understanding.” It is a basic business contract. It says that if the project goes ahead, this is how they will handle things like revenue and job creation. However, they say that they do not need the first nation's consent, that it is clear. The government then takes those agreements out to the public, as the has shamefully done, saying the government has 34 to 40 agreements with first nations. He says that they want to see it built. This divide-and-conquer strategy has been used time and again against Canada's aboriginal people, and here we are again with the possessive. The government takes the possessive and says, “We're going to divide you.” It is pitting aboriginal group against another, and it lies to them all the way to the bank. No, that is not going to happen anymore. Parliament needs to reaffirm the vote it had, and reaffirm, finally, to aboriginal people that we truly respect their rights and title.
Madam Speaker, the sanctimony of the member for is quite something.
Before I begin my remarks today and speak to the motion by the hon. member for , I want to take a moment to congratulate him on the passage of his private member's bill in the House last week. Bill is a fitting tribute to, and a crowning achievement in, his lifetime of work promoting and defending the rights of indigenous peoples. It is a bill inspired in part by what he endured as a former student in the Indian residential school system, and by his determination to reconcile with those who had, as he says, put him away for 10 years. It is a bill that speaks to those without a voice, and it is a bill that reflects his own remarkable courage, perseverance, and selfless public service.
I know that the member opposite often says he was not alone in his pursuit of justice, but there is also no denying that his decades long journey exacted a heavy toll on him, not just in terms of his endless and exhausting hours of work, but in the personal sacrifices too, including precious time lost with loved ones. We are forever indebted to him for this, and all members on this side of the House are honoured to have supported his bill. In fact, our only regret about Bill is that it did not pass in the House unanimously. History will almost certainly question the bill's opponents harshly, but I will leave it to them to explain their position to Canadians.
Today, the hon. member opposite asked for our support again with a motion that builds on Bill , a motion that among other things asks all members to reaffirm their support for the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and to advance a nation-to-nation approach that respects the right of indigenous peoples to self-determination. Our government is readily willing to do both, as we have many times before. We share much in common with the hon. member, more perhaps than he may even realize, but I will get to more of that later.
Where we differ is on the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline. Our government's decision to approve the $7.4-billion project, as well as our announcement last week to secure the existing pipeline and ensure that its expansion proceeds, has never, ever been about choosing sides or putting one province ahead of another, or one indigenous community before another. Instead, it has always been about Canada's interest. That includes the rights of all Canadians and the rights of indigenous peoples. It is our responsibility and within our jurisdiction to work in close partnerships with provinces and indigenous peoples, to consult and engage as the crown, and to act in the national interest to ensure the stability and growth of the Canadians economy, and to get our resources to market sustainably and competitively.
The TMX pipeline is part of that. It is in Canada's national interest as a result of the most in-depth indigenous consultations ever done in this country on a project; as a result of a significant number of letters and submissions from the Canadian public; and also because of the thousands of good, well-paying jobs it will create, the better prices it will ensure for Canadian oil, and the increased government revenues at all levels that will follow. All the while, our government is making unprecedented investments to enhance environmental protection and support indigenous participation.
To understand all of this and how we have arrived at where we are today, it is helpful to look back at where we started. From the moment our government was sworn into office, we made it clear that there is no relationship more important to Canada than the one with indigenous peoples. We have heard the say that many times in the House and elsewhere. He wrote it in the mandate letters of every federal cabinet minister, and he made it a central pillar of our government's vision for this clean growth century, starting with the Speech from the Throne, which was delivered exactly two and a half years ago today.
I want to read an excerpt from the throne speech so that Canadians can appreciate how it has guided our every action over the past 30 months. It reads:
Because it is both the right thing to do and a certain path to economic growth, the Government will undertake to renew, nation-to-nation, the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples, one based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation and partnership.
It is because of that perspective that we fully endorse the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and why we are acting on the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and why the appointed a working group of ministers last year to review all laws, policies, and operational practices related to indigenous peoples.
In short, our government's efforts are cut from the same cloth as the hon. member's Bill , and they go even further in ensuring that the crown is meeting its constitutional obligations regarding aboriginal and treaty rights. We are adhering to international human rights standards, including the UN declaration. We are supporting the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission's calls to action and we are doing all of these things in collaboration with indigenous peoples.
The result is that this past February the announced a historic new approach for renewing the relationships between Canada and first nations, Inuit, and Métis people, one that underscores that true reconciliation must start with the recognition and implementation of indigenous rights. Our government is doing this by developing a new recognition and implementation of rights framework, a framework that is being co-developed through national engagement to rebuild indigenous governments and nations and to support a path toward self-determination.
One of our government's earliest expressions of this new approach was the introduction of Bill , which transforms the way Canada reviews major new resource projects by co-developing with indigenous partners a direct and permanent role in impact assessment and regulatory process from beginning to end, which brings me back to the Trans Mountain expansion project.
One of the first things our government did in coming to office was to launch a new interim approach to environmental assessments and regulatory reviews in Canada, an approach based on five guiding principles that included more meaningful consultation with indigenous peoples and explicit inclusion of indigenous knowledge. Then, to enable even more voices to be heard, the appointed a special ministerial panel to travel up and down the length of the proposed pipeline's route, holding additional hearings beyond the National Energy Board's own regulatory review.
We heard through our engagements with indigenous peoples and non-indigenous Canadians in Alberta and British Columbia and across Canada that the project is in the national interest, that the jobs and revenue are needed, and that the risks can be mitigated. However, we also heard that we needed to manage the risks of the project very closely, which is another reason why we launched our country's single largest investment to protect Canada's oceans, marine life, and coastal communities, a $1.5 billion investment that will strengthen the eyes and ears of our coastlines, the longest in the world.
It will enhance our response capabilities in the unlikely event of a spill and ensure that coastal and indigenous communities are at the forefront of development and implementation of the plan.
It is also why we invested in and co-developed an indigenous advisory monitoring committee for the TMX pipeline, the first committee of its kind in Canada to help oversee the safety of a major energy project through its entire life cycle. Indigenous participation in this advisory and monitoring committee includes representatives that both support and oppose the project. This partnership and diversity of views is essential to advance our shared goals of safety and protection of the environment. As a result of these efforts, indigenous voices will be at the forefront, their counsel sought, their knowledge valued, and their rights protected. It is the beginning of a new way of managing resources.
As Chief Ernie Crey of the Cheam First Nation has said of the advisory and monitoring committee: “Indigenous people won't be on the outside looking in. We'll be at the table and on site, to protect our land and our water.” He is right.
The has said that the true measure of any relationship is not whether we all agree, but how we move forward when we do not agree. That is where our focus is.
When our government approved the TMX pipeline, we knew there would be Canadians who would disagree vocally and sometimes vehemently. That is the nature of a healthy and fully functioning democracy. Major energy projects can be controversial. They can divide political parties, as we have witnessed with the Alberta and British Columbia provincial governments who share the same political stripe. These projects can also divide indigenous communities that hold aboriginal and treaty rights protected under our Constitution. Look at those who support and those who oppose this project. There are Canadians who feel so deeply about these things that they will protest in the street and get themselves arrested, as two members of Parliament already have. This right to protest is a cherished Canadian liberty. We live under the rule of law.
I will now return to where I began in my remarks. I opened by commending the hon. member opposite for the passage of his bill, Bill , and I suggested that he shares more common ground with our government than he may realize. There is a very good reason for believing that. It is because of something he said in February when he appeared before the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs to discuss his private member's bill. At that time, the member for asked the hon. member opposite if he could articulate any distinction between free, prior, and informed consent, and a veto. I will quote the hon member for at length because, as a lawyer, he displayed his great grasp of the law. The hon. member said:
I think the distinction is an important one and we need to understand that in this country. The right to free, prior, and informed consent, like all human rights, not just the human rights of indigenous peoples, is a relative right. You need to balance that right with the rights and interests of others, which veto does not do. Veto is an absolute thing, and I don't think our court system, constitutional or otherwise, would ever take that kind of view. That's not how our Canadian legal system works and that's not how the international law system works either.
The member's explanation is one of the best I have every heard. It is also consistent with one of the most frequently cited interpretations of what free, prior, and informed consent means, as developed by the former UN Special Rapporteur, James Anaya. Mr. Anaya said that consent “should not be regarded as according indigenous peoples a general 'veto power' over decisions that may affect them”. Instead, the overarching objective of free, prior, and informed consent is that all parties work together in good faith to make every effort toward mutually acceptable arrangements, thereby allowing indigenous people to “genuinely influence the decision-making process.”
This is the approach our government took in reaching its decision to approve the Trans Mountain expansion pipeline.
The member opposite is correct in noting that there are indigenous communities that oppose the project, including six indigenous groups that are exercising their rights in court. There are also 43 rights-bearing indigenous communities along the length of the proposed expansion route who have signed mutual benefit agreements that will create real opportunities in those communities, 32 of which have submitted letters of support. These signified partnership agreements reached between the company and communities go beyond the government's consultation and beyond the 157 conditions of the project that must be in place before operation.
In addition, the has noted that since we announced our decision to purchase the existing Trans Mountain pipeline and proceed with its expansion, many investors have already expressed interest in the project, including indigenous groups.
Overriding the consent of those indigenous peoples who support the project or the majority of Canadians who are also in favour of its proceeding is not the solution here, but the contrary. It would go against the intent and spirit of the hon. member's motion.
The goal of free, prior, and informed consent is to ensure a holistic approach to interests through transparent processes aimed at building consensus.
It is the same goal at the heart of our current legislation to modernize Canada's environmental assessments and regulatory reviews. It highlights the importance of everyone in this House to support developing a recognition and implementation of indigenous rights framework that makes enshrining the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples real and meaningful, and that will fully support indigenous peoples in their path to self-determination.
How we manage and develop our national resources speaks to who we are as Canadians and the values that define us. Decisions like these are not always easy, popular, or indeed straightforward. I know the member opposite understands that as well as anyone. He has dedicated his life to advancing reconciliation through inclusive and sustainable resource development. We share similar visions; we have the same goals.
While I cannot support the member's motion as it is worded today, I believe we are all well begun with better rules to build a better Canada, one that our children can inherit with pride and build with confidence.
Madam Speaker, it is my privilege, and I am proud, to represent all the hard-working men, women, and families of Lakeland, including indigenous people across Lakeland in the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Whitefish Lake First Nation, Kehewin Cree Nation, Frog Lake First Nation, Onion Lake Cree Nation, as well as the Kikino, Buffalo Lake, Fishing Lake, and Elizabeth Métis settlements.
I will speak about the motion put forward by the NDP today from the perspective of indigenous involvement with energy development in Canada. I can only conclude that the motion involves the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain expansion as a way to advance the narrative that indigenous people in communities are opposed to responsible natural resource development, and to oil and gas in particular.
Of course, indigenous views of oil and gas and pipelines are not homogeneous. There are a variety of different experiences and opinions within and between indigenous communities, like all Canadians. Therefore, I will take the opportunity to shed some light on the other half of that narrative which is often not discussed in the House or in the media.
I was very proud when the previous Conservative government became the first one in Canada to officially apologize for the residential school system. It launched the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to recognize factors behind socio-economic challenges that indigenous people disproportionately experience, and to start working toward greater awareness, understanding, and deeper knowledge between Canadians.
Part of the path to reconciliation includes economic reconciliation. JP Gladu, president of the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business said:
First Nations, Inuit and Métis communities must have the resources to drive their own business endeavours and choose their own path toward economic growth, without prejudice.
He also said:
Aboriginal communities are going through a demographic boom, often in areas that face labour shortages and lack suppliers for local development projects. Canada cannot afford to lose the next generation of aboriginal business talent. The cost of inaction will be heavy, and not just for aboriginal peoples.
The reason I want to speak to the motion is not just because I want to reaffirm my support for truth and reconciliation, but also to let the indigenous communities in Lakeland and across Canada know that I and the Conservatives support them in their pursuit of economic development and prosperity. I represent a riding that includes eight first nations and Métis communities in northern rural Alberta. As a person who happens to be part Ojibway myself, which is complicated in my family, as it is in many, it dismays me that the left often uses first nations as pawns in their anti-energy rhetoric, implying that all first nations and Métis people are against oil and gas.
In Lakeland, and certainly across Alberta, it is very common for first nations and Métis people to be business owners and workers in energy and pipelines. Even the AFN chief, Perry Bellegarde, confirms that 500 of the 630 first nations in Canada are open to pipelines and support petroleum development. I am inspired that first nations, especially across western Canada, are increasingly agitating publicly for themselves that they want more pipelines, because that infrastructure is as crucial to the lifeblood of their communities and to opportunities for their young people as it is anywhere else.
Let us talk about economic prosperity and what it really means. Around 32,000 Métis and first nations people work in Canada's natural resources sector, which is the biggest employer of indigenous people in Canada. In Lakeland and around Alberta, first nations are very active in oil and gas across the value chain, in upstream exploration and production, and in service supply and technology in the oil sands, heavy oil, natural gas, and on pipelines. In Lakeland, a Cree community of about 1,200 people, the Frog Lake First Nation, wanted to reduce poverty in its community. It started its own oil and gas exploration company. Today, Frog Lake Energy Resources Corp. extracts over 3,000 barrels of oil per day, which has brought millions of dollars into its community. It has over $30 million in cash flow. The chairman of its board, Joe Dion said:
Together, we have to make reconciliation a priority, given the economic risks and gridlock that continues to impede the resource sector nationally, and Alberta's energy sector in particular. I believe that reconciliation can be realized right here in Alberta's energy sector. It is time for bold action. Alberta is not at the cross-roads, it’s in the ditch.
The story of Frog Lake is the story of Albertans and people across Canada. It is about aspirations, ambition, entrepreneurialism, and taking ownership of opportunities.
Sometimes I think my colleagues in the NDP would have us believe that communities like Frog Lake do not exist, that all indigenous peoples in communities are opposed to oil and gas. That is just not the reality. The Fort McKay and Mikisew Cree bands have invested $545 million to buy nearly half the shares in one of Suncor's storage facilities. There are 35 first nations working together, right now and for the past five years, to build an indigenous-owned pipeline from Alberta to northern British Columbia, an initiative that would have the support of every single indigenous community and two provinces along the road if it can go ahead.
The Fort McKay band, near the Athabaska oil sands, has an unemployment rate of 0%, and financial holdings in excess of $2 billion. Its band members have an average annual income of $120,000.
Goodfish Lake Business Corporation in Lakeland employs 150 Albertans through three dry cleaning and laundry services, which contract with oil and gas, one of which is located in White Fish first nation. A sewing and garment company in Fort McMurray, called Protective Clothing Supplies Ltd., produces petrochemical workwear for businesses in the oil sands.
All of these communities provide jobs for their members and employ people outside of their communities too.
Chief Archie Waquan, of the Mikisew Cree First Nation, said:
I used to challenge industry in my previous years. Now I look back at it and say, “What I have done in the past maybe I shouldn't have done it.” There's a balance between the environment and industry. They have checks and balances for both sides and we'd like to be a part of it.
There are significant indigenous opportunities, investment, and involvement in oil and gas. That is why it is vital that indigenous communities be welcomed to participate and why thorough consultation with indigenous communities about new energy projects is so important.
The left often implies that there is currently no or insufficient consultation in Canada, but that is not and has never been true. In fact, the 2014 WorleyParsons study confirmed that Canada maintains the highest level of environmental stringency and compliance, the highest level of regulatory transparency, life-cycle analysis, and notably, “thorough consultation and collaboration with indigenous peoples, in the world.” The exhaustive benchmarking of major oil and gas jurisdictions explicitly noted the incorporation of traditional knowledge as one of Canada's world-leading strengths in indigenous consultation on energy.
The uninformed and persistent attack on Canada's regulatory track record has both undermined Canada's reputation globally and emboldened anti-energy activists who are fighting to shut down Canadian energy and exports, which, in turn, hurts indigenous communities.
Canadian oil and gas developers have also long been world leaders in best practices of indigenous consultation on their projects, constantly improving early engagement and relationship development. Sometimes it has actually been the government that has had to catch up.
Kinder Morgan, which was prepared to invest $7.4 billion in the Canadian economy, consulted with over 133 aboriginal groups and communities, along with two non-boundary-specific aboriginal groups and nine associations, councils, and tribes. All 43 first nations along the route, 33 of which are in B.C., signed mutual benefit agreements valued at over $400 million, and about 85% of the owners or occupants on the pipeline route raised no issues or concerns during the consultations.
Chief Ernie Crey of the Cheam First Nation talked about the impact Trans Mountain has on his community:
In my opinion, if [Trans Mountain] doesn't proceed, hundreds of millions of dollars will be foregone to first nations all the way along the pipeline route.
Why I say this is that, taking my own community as an example, we negotiated really hard. It was really my young council— they're a little over half my age—that negotiated this agreement....
My young council negotiated for a year and a half or more, night and day in some instances, with a pretty tough team on the other side, Kinder Morgan's team, and yet we reached a mutual benefits agreement. I want to stress mutual benefits: benefits to the proponent and benefits to our community....
...the jobs that result [from the expansion] are not one-shot jobs that are there for a year or two and then are gone when the pipeline is concluded. That is a terrible misrepresentation of things. What we've negotiated will be lasting training and lasting jobs and...over the entire life of what I hope will be the new pipe that will come from Alberta to tidewater in British Columbia.
Already our community is alive with excitement.... our young people every day come to me and say they want to get trained, they want a job, and they want to say goodbye to welfare....
To us, it means millions of dollars to my band alone, a community of approximately 540 people. I know that it also means a lot to many other first nations who haven't stepped up and spoken out, but who also have agreements that are perhaps comparable to ours.
Arthur Bird, of the Paul First Nation, said:
We have to support the development of the country and its economics, because the economics of the province affects all of us in one way or another.
In 2016, when the Trans Mountain expansion was waiting for approval, Mike LeBourdais, the former chief of the Whispering Pines/Clinton Indian Band, said:
I want the money from our resources...so that we can pay for our health, so that we can pay for our education, so that we can pay for our elders, so that we can pay to protect our environment, so we can build better pipes, we can build better bridges, we can build better railways.
The Peters First Nations said:
We are concerned that among all of the well-funded and highly publicized opposition to the project, the voice of Indigenous nations that support TMX has been lost....
Peters First Nation has lived with the original pipeline that was built over 50 years ago seated at the base of our mountain and above our homes with no worries or incidents. We believe that the TMX pipeline is the safest way to transport the needed natural resources out of our country for the benefit of all Canadians.
Kinder Morgan provided more than $13 million to indigenous communities to conduct traditional land or marine use studies and to participate in traditional ecological knowledge studies and other types of community-designed research.
Kinder Morgan did due diligence and consulted with indigenous communities impacted by the expansion and established economic partnerships. Therefore, it is frustrating to see activists outright oppose economic opportunity and security for dozens of indigenous communities that desperately want it.
To put all this in context, the fact is that seven first nations, which are not directly crossed by the expansion, are challenging it in court, which they have a right to do. While they have a right to do it, and a recent motion opposing the pipeline at the AFN made big news, the reality is that it was backed by distant communities in other provinces not directly impacted by the pipeline. Should the hopes and work of 43 indigenous communities be completely destroyed as a result? I do not think so.
While I and my Conservative colleagues believe that pipelines and other energy projects should be paid for, built, maintained, and operated by the private sector, Alberta indigenous groups are saying that they want a stake in the Trans Mountain pipeline now that the government is negotiating its ownership.
Pipelines and major energy projects should be and are rigorously examined and debated. Environmental stewardship is, and must be, continually improved in energy development. I believe that all Canadians want to protect the environment for future generations.
I am glad that indigenous people who are partners in energy development are speaking out that they have been keepers of the land and water for millennia and that they ensure exceptional environmental management as they pursue economic opportunities. It is mind-boggling that anti-energy activists do not see their own patronizing, demeaning implications when they ignore or trample on the rights of those indigenous communities to self-determination on energy development.
Both the and the left-wing coalition have, of course, been totally complicit in the indigenous anti-energy myth for their own ideological and political reasons. The Conservative-approved northern gateway pipeline was supported by more than 30 indigenous groups with $2 billion in mutual benefit agreements, including training and employment opportunities.
This had a choice. He could have instructed additional scope and time for consultation, as he did before Trans Mountain was approved and as the Supreme Court said the government could. Instead, he outright vetoed it completely.
Chief Elmer Derrick, of the Gitxsan Nation, said that the Prime Minister had no interest in hearing from first nations who supported northern gateway. He said, “The fact that the Prime Minister chose not to consult with people in northwestern B.C. disappointed us very much.”
Dale Swampy, of the Samson Cree Nation, said:
[First nations] weren't asked about the financial effect, the lost employment. They are trying to get themselves out of poverty, the welfare system that they are stuck to, and every time they try to do something like that, it's destroyed.
First nations and Métis communities spent two years and millions in legal fees developing agreements with Enbridge, but all that work and all that hope is now gone because of a purely political decision by this .
Then there is the tanker ban, which was rammed through after little consultation with the indigenous communities most affected by it. There is a $16-billion indigenous-owned pipeline, backed by 35 first nations, that would transport oil from Bruderheim, in Lakeland, to northern British Columbia, but the tanker ban is the obstacle. The never stopped to listen to the bands who oppose it.
Eva Clayton, president of the Nisga'a, in northwestern B.C., said:
Our government is committed to creating an economic base that meets the requirements of our treaty. We owe it to our people and their futures to preserve the opportunity to have different economic development options available to us. We will not continue to see our way of life eroded and consign our children and grandchildren to life without meaningful opportunities, based on an ill-conceived policy decision.
The Lax Kw'alaams Band, where the pipeline would end, strongly opposes the ban and the lack of consultation around it and has already launched a constitutional challenge against it.
Calvin Helin, the chairman of Eagle Spirit Energy, and a member of the Lax Kw'alaams, said:
We developed a model, particularly for the ocean, that has a higher environmental standard than the federal government is proposing anywhere else in Canada.
The wants to talk about the importance of consultation with indigenous people. I agree in principle and in practice, but it is cynical and hypocritical of him to ignore the indigenous voices that disagree with his radical anti-energy agenda on a case-by-case basis.
It infuriates me to hear politicians speak of indigenous people as their “most important relationship” and worry publicly about the real crippling poverty and the particular socio-economic challenges and barriers facing indigenous Canadians, while they deliberately use every possible means to block financial opportunities and to undermine all their efforts and work to secure agreements to benefit their communities, elders, youth, and futures.
The text of the NDP motion states, in part (b):
...institutions, like the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs which has said with respect to the Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain pipeline that “No means no—the project does not have the consent it requires”, which is a principled position conducive to achieving the ends of the UNDRIP.
However, in a recent interview on CBC, Chief Robert Chamberlin, vice-president of that union, said, “when we have first nations that are definitely in support of this, that needs to be respected without question.” He went on to say, “we have the divide and conquer of colonialism alive and well in Canada.” Many other indigenous community representatives have said that the words the NDP quote in their motion do not speak for them.
While the left tries to push the narrative that indigenous people oppose resource development, it is simply not true, and it is destructive to indigenous people and to all of Canada. It is our job as legislators to make decisions in the broad best interests of all and to carefully weigh the costs and benefits to serve the public good. Obviously, the opinions, ideals, and needs of indigenous communities are vast and diverse. There are pro-development indigenous groups all across Canada, and there are others that are opposed, for their own reasons. All have the right to express their views and to demonstrate peacefully.
I want to thank my colleague, the member for , for his tireless efforts to advance truth and reconciliation in Canada and for this discussion on the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I share his commitment to advance truth and reconciliation in Canada.
It is critical that we examine the motion and its potential implications, as should be the case for all motions here. I support UNDRIP's aspirations, and there are many elements that I and Conservative colleagues support, but as my colleague from pointed out last week, even the current Liberal said, “Simplistic approaches such as adopting the United Nations declaration as being Canadian law are unworkable and, respectfully, a political distraction to undertaking the hard work actually required to implement it back home in communities.”
I do not actually believe that UNDRIP is simplistic. I think it is comprehensive and complicated. My issue is that it is designed as a global, rather than a Canadian, approach to protecting and advancing indigenous rights. Canada is one of the only nations in the world where indigenous rights and treaty rights are entrenched in our Constitution. The crown has a duty to consult indigenous people under section 35, which I assume every member of the House supports.
However, the parameters in UNDRIP for what constitutes free, prior, and informed consent are not clearly defined. As the member for has said, there are various interpretations, and the discrepancy among these interpretations is problematic in and of itself. Some first nations think it is about having a comprehensive consultation process, whereas others have asked for something like veto power when it comes to new energy projects. Obviously, the hundreds of indigenous communities that are owners, partners, and workers in Canada's responsible resource sector should not be at risk of having all their opportunities denied by one individual community that may or may not be involved directly itself.
All 43 nations along Trans Mountain signed agreements with Kinder Morgan. They had, in other words, consented to the pipeline going through their lands. The NEB ensured exhaustive inclusion of indigenous consultation in the regulatory process, and the Liberals added more in 2016.
Article 32(2) of UNDRIP states:
States shall consult and cooperate in good faith with the indigenous peoples concerned through their own representative institutions in order to obtain their free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources, particularly in connection with the development, utilization or exploitation of mineral, water or other resources.
I want to draw members' attention to the phrase “any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources.” Trans Mountain did receive approval from all nations it affected, so I am not sure why the expansion is included in this motion explicitly, except because of politics, because, of course, the NDP opposes Trans Mountain and pipelines.
Therefore, on behalf of all the people in all the communities in Treaty No. 6 in Lakeland, I appreciate having had the opportunity to speak on behalf of the vast majority of my constituents who value energy development and support pipelines.
Madam Speaker, I will start by indicating that I will be sharing my time with the hon member for .
This is a historic debate after a historic debate that occurred five days ago in this place, during which my colleague from , who devoted 34 years of his life to this cause, had the House vote in favour of not only an aspirational document but a document that would now guide Parliament in its relationship with first nations peoples in this land. It is a bill that commits Canada to supporting not just in words but in action something that is known as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, article 32(2) of which guarantees:
....free and informed consent prior to the approval of any project affecting their lands or territories and other resources....
The hon. member for seems to believe, as do the Liberals across the way, that this means we can choose our friends. We can say, “If you are with us, that's okay; we have your consent. However, if you happen to be a coastal first nation, that's different, because you disagree with us.”
That is not how constitutionally protected rights and aboriginal title work in this country, and that certainly is not what I voted for when I stood proudly with my Liberal colleagues to vote for our country's implementation of this historic United Nations document, guaranteeing the rights of our indigenous peoples.
I have to say I come with recent information from my riding. The member for told us what her constituents think, and I now have very clear information about what the constituents of Victoria think, a community surrounded by oceans on three sides. On Friday, I held a town hall meeting on the 's bailout project to buy a leaky 65-year-old pipeline and create another 1,000 kilometres of new pipeline, as well as the tanker project that would effectively almost triple the amount of diluted bitumen travelling on our waters in Victoria.
I thought I would just put a notice out on social media asking people if they would like to come to a town hall meeting on Friday. I did that on Tuesday, and we initially thought we would get 200 people. We got that many people in a couple of hours, and then we got up to 600 people. We had to change the venue twice, and we ended up in what I think is our largest venue aside from the hockey rink, where people told us what they thought.
This was not a rally and it was not intended to be a rally. Indeed, I invited a former deputy minister of Indigenous and Northern Affairs from the Government of Canada, Mr. Harry Swain, to speak about the issues from a business perspective and to speak to the way in which crown corporations are established so as to give us a broader understanding of what it means for the government to take over this project—somewhat in desperation, I might add.
It became very clear, despite our efforts to hear both sides, that the people of my community, including many indigenous leaders around the coastal part of British Columbia, are deeply opposed to the risk that the government is prepared to impose upon them without what article 32 requires the government to do—namely, to take into account their perspectives.
I understand that the government wishes to create a crown corporation; at least, that is what the media informs us. I do not know whether that is how it is going to proceed.
I would like to back up. We have a court case in the Federal Court of Appeal that was argued several months ago. We expected to have a judgment from the court in the last little while, and I expect we will get it soon. The temerity of the Liberals to proceed in the way they are before we have the decision of the Federal Court of Appeal is deeply disrespectful, and appears to me to be a little inconsistent with their commitment to the rule of law, about which we heard so much this morning. The Federal Court of Appeal sat day after day and heard testimony about whether there was an infringement of aboriginal rights in the process that led to the approval of this project by the National Energy Board; then the government announces it is going to buy the whole thing and triple the capacity and double the pipeline. Does that sound like a commitment to rule of law and respect for indigenous rights?
I had indigenous leaders stand up at my town hall to describe their sense of utter betrayal and disappointment in the government. Madam Speaker, you may have heard in your riding what I heard over and over in mine during the last election, which was that there is no relationship more important to the government than that with Canada's first peoples. I guess that was then and this is now.
The sense of betrayal among first nations is palpable, but I come with real sadness today because what really disturbed me at this town hall, which there were many people from all ages and all walks of life, was the sense of betrayal that young people felt with the government. I am doing my best to tell them not to give up hope.
First of all, the election led to 39% of the people getting 100% of the power. Just 39% of those voting voted for the government—about the same, by the way, as happened when the Harper government was elected and ended up with 100% of the power. Members must have heard in their ridings what I heard many times in mine, that this would be the last election that would be first past the post. Our put his hand on his heart and said that.
Now people came to this town hall to be told that the government had decided not to stand up on climate change and be the climate leader that we heard our so proudly declare himself to be in Paris, but to actually become, essentially, the CEO of a pipeline. I do not recall seeing that in the mandate of any minister, let alone the Prime Minister. I do not recall reading that was going to happen. I guess that is different now.
The point is the sense of betrayal that young people feel, the sense of hopelessness, the existential concern about climate change, which I am sure everyone in this House has had a conversation with a young person about. Now the government is doubling down, essentially, on subsidies to the fossil fuel industry.
Members may remember that at the G7 meeting about two years ago this month in Japan, our and other leaders said that they would terminate most fossil fuel subsidies. Canada and other G7 nations encouraged countries to join them in eliminating what they referred to “inefficient fossil fuel subsidies”. The declaration said:
Given the fact that energy production and use account for around two-thirds of global GHG emissions, we recognize the crucial role that the energy sector has to play in combatting climate change.
It is going to be interesting to see what happens at the G7 meeting coming up, when Canada has to explain why it has decided to double down on fossil fuel subsidies and become the champion of a pipeline. In my riding at least, that is a little hard for young people to understand.
In terms of first nations, what happens if a crown corporation is established? That is not a proponent like Kinder Morgan; that becomes the Government of Canada, does it not? Is the government going to say that since it is a crown corporation, it is at arm's length? How many times have we heard the government stand up and say that it cannot do anything about the telecommunications issue or the postal issue, because those are crown corporations and the government does not really go there?
I wonder if it is going to be just the same from now on, because is the Government of Canada not going to be the primary owner of that pipeline? It seems to me that there is an argument, at least, that it has responsibilities now that are enhanced vis-à-vis the consultation duty.
It was revealed through an access to information request that just before the pipeline was actually approved by cabinet, it appears that a decision had already been made by the government to move full steam ahead, so the consultation that occurred thereafter was nothing but window dressing—at least, that is how it appears, looking back objectively at what happened.
The level of commitment to first nations, despite the heroic stance of the government in approving the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, has to be suspect. Will it say it applied in the past? Possibly not. However, its spirit should guide this crown corporation's relationship with coastal first nations people, and they do not approve. They are deeply opposed to this, and, as I said, their sense of betrayal is obvious.
[Member spoke in Dene]
Today, I am happy to speak in support of the motion presented by the member for and would like to congratulate him on his lifetime achievement award for advancing the rights of first nations, Métis, and Inuit people. It is humbling to sit in the House of Commons next to the hon. member and to work across the hall from him every day.
One of the first things that surprised me when I was elected to represent the people of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill River was the number of invitations I receive here in Ottawa, as I am sure my colleague can attest to. Our offices receive hundreds of invitations every month for events across the city, such as film screenings, meetings of foreign dignitaries, lunches with community stakeholders, issue briefings with industry professionals, book launches, protests, and more. At virtually every single one of these events, there is one thing that is always said, which is that we recognize that we are on the unceded and unsurrendered territory of the Algonquin people.
Statements like these are important. Recognizing the unsurrendered land of first nations, Métis, and Inuit people is an important step toward our national project of reconciliation. Acknowledging that the lands we live on have their own history reminds all Canadians of our colonial history and the injustices committed against first nations, Métis, and Inuit people.
Just this past week, the Liberal government has proven that the recognition of our people is just words and false promises. When the Liberal government decided to purchase the Kinder Morgan pipeline assets for $4.5 billion, it said it was in the best interests of Canadians to purchase that leaky 65-year-old pipeline.
This is the same government that feels the need to tell us every day that climate change is real and that we should invest in green technology. This is the same government that tells us that it believes debate is important while pushing for time allocation and presenting omnibus bills. This is from the same government that promised changes to the electoral system, but abandoned that promise. This is coming from the same government that has tirelessly told us that its relationship with first nations, Métis, and Inuit people is the most important relationship it has. This is the same government that believes in a nation-to-nation consultation and insists on denying the rights of first nations, Métis, and Inuit people. This is the same government that will not support my private member's bill to make National Indigenous Peoples Day a statutory holiday.
The government is not protecting the rivers and lakes that first nations, Métis, and Inuit people use every day for hunting, fishing, and trapping. First nation, Métis, and Inuit people believe that water is life, and protecting it from waste, pollution, and damage is crucial. Nothing about the government's purchase of the pipeline would do anything to protect our land or our water. It is awful that the government thinks it can hide this fact. First nation, Métis, and Inuit people strongly believe that water is life and they will protect it at all costs.
We have heard repeatedly from the that the Liberals have consulted with 43 first nations who have given their consent for this project, which is enough for the Liberals to purchase this pipeline and force this project. If the government did its due diligence, it would find that there are far more first nations, Métis, and Inuit people who are opposed to the pipeline than in support of it.
We could go back and forth all day with lists of who supports and who opposes this pipeline, but I believe that today's motion is more about the principle than resentment.
[Member speaks in Dene]
I am a Dene woman who comes from northern Saskatchewan, and 75% of the people in my riding identify as first nation or Métis people. Many struggle to find work, affordable housing, access to clean water, or health care that meets their needs.
The Kinder Morgan pipeline project does not reach my home province, but the decisions the government has made are felt by the people back home. Too often I am told that our community lacks the resources to do a number of projects. There is never enough money for clean water, mental health, youth programs, or health care. Therefore, it comes as a shock to many in the north that there is now enough money for pipelines. People at home have been encouraged by the government's action on UNDRIP and the indigenous languages act, and love to see first nation issues placed at the highest importance in Ottawa, but have seen their hopes for a better future crushed by the news that companies in Texas are more important than they.
However, not all hope is lost. Folks back home regularly tell me how inspired they are by the resilience of the first nation people in British Columbia. We recognize the importance of the elders guiding us against the pipeline, and we are inspired by their stories of resilience and strength to protect the rights of first nations, Métis, and Inuit people.
We recognize the bravery of the first nations challenging the government in court. We stand firmly with the British Columbia Assembly of First Nations, the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, and the Assembly of First Nations. We raise our voices in support of the protesters on the ground opposing this pipeline. The fight for first nations, Métis, and Inuit rights has been going on for generations, and we will continue that fight in the future.
The concern of folks in northern Saskatchewan is that if the rights of first nations people in B.C. can be violated today, then perhaps it will be those of the people of Saskatchewan next. We hear so much about the duty to consult, the idea of free, prior, and informed consent, and how important it is to the Liberal government, but when it comes down to actually getting that consent, the government has shown that words are more important to it than action.
We hear from companies all the time about how they have done consultations with first nations, Métis, and Inuit people. Often, these consultations are single two-hour meetings held in languages that are not spoken by the locals. We know that when documents are signed, the vast majority of first nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples are uninformed and intentionally excluded.
A true consultation, with a goal of obtaining free, prior, and informed consent, takes time. First nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples are the ultimate judges on whether the consultation process has been meaningful.